One of the essential components of a good season-long mystery is a long-term memory. “A Trip to the Dentist” revolves around one of the main questions brought up by the pilot–who raped Veronica?–and it essentially takes us on a ride back through the season; we see people like Meg and Dick and Beaver and Casey and Carrie and Madison and Luke, all of whom appeared in at least one earlier episode, and the way Veronica hops around from one to another is a nice representation of her mindset as she tries to find out what happened on the night of Shelley’s party.
The thing is, unlike with the cases we saw over the course of the season, Veronica’s actions seem to be driven more by what others say than by how what they say fits into a narrative she’s piecing together. In other words, although we can see the fiery, intelligent, and determined Veronica in her, we also see a vulnerable, emotionally adrift teenage girl who’s being buffeted around by the conflicting stories. The episode plays out Rashomon-style in this regard, and the stories build off of, then contradict, each other at every turn; it’s very understandable that for someone trying to figure out who raped her, frustration would build up considerably.
So, Veronica’s even tougher and more sarcastic than usual–she ends up breaking Dick’s surfboard–but that’s contrasted with the aforementioned image of a teenage girl. Keith sends Veronica to her room, she says “he bugged me first” (“he” refers to Clarence Wiedman), and she breaks down at multiple times throughout the episode, all of which evoke the image of a child. However, we know that this is much darker than a child simply reacting to the stresses of the world; this is dead serious.
The episode, after all, tackles issues of rape and consent, which are always more complicated to handle when you bring drugs and alcohol into things. This ultimately becomes a story of bystanders, of people who were simultaneously all responsible and not responsible for the rape, of people inadvertently working together to place Duncan and Veronica in the situation they were in, and it’s a damning look at society as a whole (rather than at, say, just gender). The storyline concludes fairly swiftly, but what matters is that Duncan and Veronica find some sort of peace here; issues of rape, I will not get into right now. What I will emphasize, though, are the performances by Teddy Dunn and Kristen Bell. This episode is probably the crowning achievement for them both thus far, and the scene they share together in front of the house is heartbreaking in every way.
In general, this seems to be an episode about accountability, about the past, and we’ll definitely see a different element to that–regarding Lilly Kane–come out in the finale. In “A Trip to the Dentist”, however, we have Veronica navigating rough waters, trying to pin someone down amid a storm of emotions. On the flip side, we also have strengthening of friendships between her and Weevil and between her and Wallace, and the scene in which she shows Wallace the laptop is one of my favorite scenes of the series. These are two people who deeply care about each other, who fully trust each other, who see eye to eye and who comfort each other in times of need. Now is one of those times.
– “Can you just evaporate or something?” That entire surprise party scene is so great for Logan. Too bad about those tapes at the end, although they actually draw suspicion away from him in my eyes. I know your tricks, writers! Plus, Jason Dohring is too good to be the killer!
– “You do not want to start with me today, Paco.” “Are you sure? It was in my day planner under ‘goals’.” Weevil-Logan back and forth will never get old.
-I knew right away that there was something more to the Keith-Cheyenne scene. He’s just not someone who would order a prostitute.
-Sean and Dick are definitely the ones who come across the worst at the end of it all.
-Predictions heading into the finale: maybe the murder wasn’t carried out by anyone we know? Maybe it was connected somehow, but indirect? I’m pretty confident that it wasn’t any of the Kanes, and I think they’ve been throwing Logan stuff around to misdirect a bit. So…that leaves Backup.
Photo credit: CW/UPN, Veronica Mars